Allegorical potential vs. subconscious guilt.


…the zombie meme may be less about looming Armageddon, and more about a nagging subconscious awareness that the extreme inequalities of our current world order are in fact already a kind of zombie-scape, in which almost 3 billion people live in such extreme poverty, largely removed from the view of Westerners, malnourished and off the grid, that they are real life living dead in a way, and they have lots of reason to come for us, looking to eat us, or at least consume our ill-gotten wealth.

via Zombie Hasbara: World War Z and Hollywood’s Zionist embrace.



The Unbearable Being of A-Rod

What won’t happen, despite what various reports say, is a quick resolution… For A-Rod to retire and for insurance to cover his contract, some very powerful insurance companies that don’t look kindly upon those who try to bilk them out of dollars will get involved.

via Great Moments in A-Rod: Everyone out to commit insurance fraud | River Avenue Blues.

ESPN, intrepidly plumbing the depths of anonymous sourcing, casts the self-loving Alex Rodriguez as a frightened animal. The Daily News describes him as a schemer, and The Post seems to be fretting about his psychological well-being.

This, I think, is what journalism teachers are getting at when they talk about the perils of anonymous sources.

Mr. Rodriguez, who had surgery in January to repair a torn whatsis in his hoo-hah, had been rehabbing politely and quietly in Florida. But for some reason one of his handlers posted this week to a newly christened Twitter account in Mr. Rodriguez’s name that his return was imminent. This provoked the Yankees’ general manager, Brian Cashman, to a salty outburst of petulance, which in turn sent ripples of ecstasy through the dank clubhouse of New York’s sportswriters.

…how do the people in charge of the Yankees, the ones who lose their minds over his contract, look at things if he becomes an asset again, and actually makes their team more interesting?

via Alex Rodriguez isnt only one in Yankees organization that needs to shut up – NY Daily News.

According to ESPN’s anonymous source, Mr. Rodriguez believes that the Yankees are intentionally trying to derail his rehabilitation as part of a plot to have him declared unfit to play, which, so the story goes, would allow the club to soak its insurance company for some part of Mr. Rodriguez’s $28 million 2013 salary.

Downtown, at The Daily News, anonymous sources are sure that, instead of trying to avoid being declared unfit to play, Mr. Rodriguez is absolutely counting on it. His only worry is to get the declaration before Major League Baseball takes a giant crap on his head by suspending him for the illegal use of drugs. Being declared medically unfit, The Daily News says, would allow Mr. Rodriguez to retire and collect the balance of what he is owed on his contract, which apparently is $114 million.

Back uptown, at The New York Post, anonymous sources are beside themselves with concern. Mr. Rodriguez is not worried about the Yankees’ scheming against him. He is not worried about carrying through with his own fraud. “He is worried about his health,” The Post’s source fretted Thursday.

“Well,” Mac says, “I reckon you’ve got your money on the Yankees this year.”
“What for?” I says.
“The Pennant,” he says. “Not anything in the league can beat them.”
“Like hell there’s not,” I says. “They’re shot,” I says. “You think a team can be that lucky forever?”
— Page 252, The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner, Vintage International.

I don’t understand the contract mechanics that would govern the reality here. I am guessing that none of the sportswriters involved do either. But I do know two things. One is what Benjamin Kabak wrote, excerpted above, at the excellent River Avenue Blues: Insurance companies are no pushovers.

Maybe the Yankees have some clever operators in their bullpen, but no way Mr. Rodriguez does. If he couldn’t hold it together to secretly break baseball’s doping rules, as presumably hundreds of other players did, or to carry on extramaritally with sundry floozies and wrinkled pop stars, as assuredly thousands of other players did, how is he going to orchestrate a medical coverup that will endure the relentless scrutiny of the Angry Actuary?

More to the point, how many John Grisham novels have to be made into movies before we get the message?

…[the reality is] that the Yankees need him as much as ever…

via Retirement rumors aside, A-Rod wont go away easily and Yankees need him back | The Strike Zone –

Two, and more important, does anyone believe that Mr. Rodriguez’s aim in all this could possibly be to retire? In other words, to stop being A-Rod? Because that is ridiculous. You do not need to see photos of Mr. Rodriguez kissing his reflection in a mirror to understand that. With all due respect to him and his family and what I am sure is a diverting list of hobbies, he has nothing without baseball, and if the insurance-policy gambit is at all plausible, you can bet that he knows his second act won’t be a return to baseball with another team.

When Mr. Rodriguez looks down at himself, he sees in those glistening, rippling minotaur haunches the greatest baseball player who ever lived. He does not see a misfit copout.

And presumably he knows that, probably, behind that mirror is a closed-circuit camera beaming back his every move to the headquarters of the Evil Guaranty and Trust Corporation.

Practice makes perfect.


“Theres not a lot said,” OReilly said. “Everybody knows their job, knows how to do it, when to do it.” He does not remember the name of the first inmate executed during his tenure…

via Ex-Texas warden reflects after 140 executions.


The nesting dolls of hatred.


Within Afghanistan, the war is viewed primarily as a Pashtun rebellion against President Hamid Karzai’s regime, which has empowered three other ethnic groups—the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras of the north—to a degree that the Pashtuns resent. …There is also an age-old Pashtun-on-Pashtun element to the conflict. It pits Taliban from the Ishaqzai tribe, parts of the Nurzais, Achakzais, and most of the Ghilzais, especially the Hotak and Tokhi Ghilzais, against the more “establishment” Durrani Pashtun tribes: the Barakzais, Popalzais and Alikozais. Beyond this indigenous conflict looms the much more dangerous hostility between the two regional powers—both armed with nuclear weapons: India and Pakistan.

via A Deadly Triangle: Afghanistan, Pakistan and India | Brookings Institution.


These are the rich people who run things.


Money from the nation’s 31,385 biggest givers found its way into the coffers of every successful congressional candidate. And 84 percent of those elected in 2012 took more money from these 1% of the 1% donors than they did from all of their small donors…

via The Political 1% of the 1% in 2012 – Sunlight Foundation Blog.


Showing Up Really Is Half the Battle

04-02416 Francois Coli and French Air Service ...

Francois Coli, with Charles Nungesser (Photo credit: San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

“Nungesser and Coli have succeeded,” declared La Presse, going so far as to detail their sea landing in New York Harbor and the “cheers that rose up from the ships that surrounded them.” Those heady first reports proved false. Charles Nungesser, a daredevil aristocrat and top French flying ace, and François Coli, a one-eyed mariner and former infantryman, had not arrived in New York. Their hulking single-engine biplane, L’Oiseau Blanc, or The White Bird, was never recovered.

via Resuming the Search for a Pioneering Plane Off a Remote Island –

The Times had a thing today about how some beret-wearing cheese sucker is sure he’s figured out what happened to the famous French aviators Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli.

Wuh… Who?

Excuse me, but I had never heard of them. (Which isn’t saying much, I know.)

The Times article seems to agree with me in spirit. No matter how famous Mr. Nungesser and Mr. Coli were, it seems they’re well forgotten now. I mean, check out the list of best guesses as to what happened to them: “The Frenchmen were thought to have gone down in the English Channel, or perhaps over the Atlantic, or somewhere between Newfoundland and Maine.” Some nuts think the United States Coast Guard shot the plane down.

In other words, no one has made any headway in solving what Times referred to as “one of aviation’s great mysteries.” No one, it seems, has even been trying very hard.

I don’t know how many people near the Channel said they heard an airplane, but supposedly nine witnesses in Newfoundland and four on the ought-to-be-part-of-Canada French island of St. Pierre said they did on the night the men disappeared. That’s 13 people (13!) who said they heard an airplane. If that many people said they had heard Mr. Nungesser and Mr. Coli strangle their cleaning lady, the two guys would have died in Sing Sing.

This was in 1927, mind you. There weren’t exactly airplanes flying all over the place.

Charles Lindbergh, with Spirit of St. Louis in...

Charles Lindbergh, with Spirit of St. Louis in background (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In fact, Mr. Nungesser, whom The Times calls “a daredevil aristocrat,” and Mr. Coli, “a one-eyed mariner,” were vying for the Orteig Prize, which promised $25,000 to anyone who could complete a nonstop flight between Paris to New York.

Unfortunately, they “vanished ‘like midnight ghosts,’ wrote Charles Lindbergh,” according to The Times, probably not without a self-satisfied smirk. Thirteen days after the Frenchmen disappeared, Mr. Lindbergh would claim the Orteig for himself and set off an ill-fated and ungainly arc of celebrity.

Anyway, according to The Times, our present-day aviation sleuth is Bernard Decré, who explains his interest in the mystery by saying, “We just want to recognize that they accomplished a fantastic crossing.”

Yes. He really said that.

I wonder if Mr. Nungesser and Mr. Coli, who were planning a water landing in New York anyway, would have agreed.

In the Waiting Room for the Ear Hole of God (James Turrell)

10:06 PM Samantha
They had that bamboo exhibit there, last year, maybe? Did you get to that?
10:07 PM John
10:07 PM Samantha
It was cool to be under the bamboo and then look out at the skyline.
10:08 PM John
You always did love bamboo. You are like a panda bear. Love the bamboo.
10:08 PM Samantha
What’s not to love about the bamboo.
10:08 PM John
I know, right? You love it. …You ought to know. Panda Sam, we say.
10:08 PM Samantha
Also, as I found out [deleted], makes a great walking stick on a hike!
…Um, we are not calling me that, dear.
10:08 PM John
Yup. So useful. We say, There goes Panda Sam. Maybe she will spear some of that trash with her bamboo walking stick.
10:10 PM Samantha
Come on.
10:11 PM John
Panda Sam, Panda Sam, walking along as best she can.
10:11 PM Samantha
Proud of yourself for that one, aren’t you, dear?

I was at the Met the other day. For what, people usually ask. For lots of things, I would have said this time. There was an exhibit of Civil War photography; a small show of paintings by the Swiss checkerboard expressionist Paul Klee; a noxious cage of catwalks adorned with punk fashion and a mockup of the bathroom (see below) at CBGB; the European galleries are all new, of course; and there was lots else besides.


The highlight, though — excluding the new sunlighted maze of European paintings — was a haunting ancient bronze of a boxer that is crouched in Gallery 153 of the Greek and Roman Art department. (Left and down the hall as you come in the front door.) I did not even know it was there. The figure is expressive and haunting. The face is fantastic, with wounded eyes, and cuts and scars inlaid with copper.

It is called something like Boxer at Rest, or Boxer Wondering Who Said That, or Boxer Who Is, All, What Do You Want?! Or something. And it was found in Rome in 1885. The shovelers guess that it was buried on purpose in the fifth century, probably at the behest of some toga-wearing alarmist who was worried the barbarians were (again) just over the hill. (To be fair, they were.) The thinking is, it could maybe be a monument to an actual boxer, but it might just be a tribute to boxers in general. Or, you know, some whole other thing.

Who can say with art?

I say “who can say with art?” because moments after leaving this centuries-old marvel I went into the Guggenheim, the interior of which is now plugged by “an immense, elliptical, nearly hallucinatory play of light and color,” to quote the fairly breathless Roberta Smith of The Times. I might have said, “an immense, multicolored eustachian tube,” but, you know, who can say with art?

Ms. Smith led her review with a remark that was misquoted to me as her representing the Guggenheim’s show as being the “art hit of the summer.” In fact, Ms. Smith had qualified her praise, saying that it was “the bliss-out environmental art hit of the summer.”

I suppose the distinction is important; certainly, it is worth making.

The Guggenheim show features the art of James Turrell, one of the great unwashed, far-out hippies of our time. Now 70, Mr. Turrell was the chief explicator of bemusement and first-chair bongo-drum thumper for something that art majors like to call the Light and Space movement. The large aural canal now taking up the Guggenheim’s famous rotunda is known as “Aten Reign,” and according to The Times it is the “largest temporary installation” “the museum has ever undertaken.” What it is is a tiered vertical tunnel of light, suspended over the viewer’s head, that changes color steadily in one-hour cycles. It definitely is big, and definitely is something to see. Though perhaps not at the higher-than-it-used-to-be Guggenheim admission price of $22.

…you may or may not see God, but you will probably come away with both an enhanced sense of your visual powers and also a new humbleness concerning the world’s visual complexities.

via James Turrell Plays With Color at the Guggenheim –

I don’t read many art reviews outside The Times, but I am guessing it is safe to say that most art critics do not casually toss around the phrase “you may or may not see God.” Never mind the obvious and nettlesome theological problems, you may want to swing by the Gugg if only to see what drove Ms. Smith to such heavenly heights of hyperbole.

Of course, the giant centerpiece is only the first stop on a “spare, unhurried tour of his art,” as Ms. Smith helpfully notes. Upstairs — the great Guggenheim ramp is for this show unadorned by other art — there are three smaller displays of Turrell’s work. The first you come to in your sensory-thrill-seeking tramp is literally a slice taken out of the wall. Ms. Smith calls this “a shaft of astoundingly mysterious white light.” I literally thought it was a window.


The CBGB toilet; I was not supposed to take this picture.

Second are three related rooms. In the first  are illuminated sketches of illuminated rectangles. Next door are life-size examples: dark rooms with a shaft of intense white light in one corner.

And for the finale, which was reached only after a half-hour wait in a long, unevenly managed line, was something called “Iltar.” This is a rectangular hole in the wall, which is dimly illuminated from the sides. Ms. Smith was captivated. She called it “a surprise ending.” She saw mystery, simplicity and “granular textures that almost start to teem.” In that dark room, at the end of a tedious queue of jangled tourists, Ms. Smith found “a quiet renunciation of Mr. Turrell’s centerpiece.

“You may not care,” she writes, “but it is there.”

I didn’t care when I got “there.” Following me into the room were the blue cellphone spotlights of several blundering museum-goers, who had apparently spent the balance of their visit in blissful ignorance of what “light” does to “space.” I stood in front of the cutout and quietly began a renunciation of my own.

The sour feeling did not fully dissipate until I had a bowl of vanilla frozen yogurt (with blueberries) once I got outside the museum.

Saddest ‘three men in a boat’ joke ever.


Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh are in a boat. They are in the middle of a deep, cold lake. If the boat sinks they will die of hypothermia and their corpses will sink to the bottom. There is a device in the boat that will sink it instantly, or alternatively, propel the boat to the safety of the shoreline where there are three martinis waiting for them, but it all depends on all three of them correctly answering a question. …The question is, “Is global warming real, human caused, and important, yes or no.” They don’t know who is asking the question. It could be the Heritage Institute, it could be Michael Mann with his finger on a remote that operates the device. But they are told that the best available science will be used to determine if they are wrong or right. They will all answer “yes.”

via Why you sound so stupid when you say “global warming has stopped” – Greg Ladens Blog.


Stop doing that!


In New York, it’s appallingly easy to go to an utterly mediocre restaurant and spend $50 or $60, once tax, tip and two drinks are included. I’ve done it dozens of times.

via Joe Satran: Why LAs Restaurants May Be Better Than Those In New York.